Equal Rights for Women in Malta
This petition had 1,659 supporters
Honourable Members of Parliament,
We write to you as citizens or residents of Malta, who are highly concerned about the proposed recommendations that will be presented to you with regards to the introduction and licensing of the Emergency Contraceptive Pill in Malta.
The recommendations tabled by the parliamentarians forming part of the joint meeting of the health, social affairs and family affairs committees concluded that Emergency Contraception should be licensed in Malta on condition that they can only be bought after obtaining a medical prescription.
We feel that these recommendations are deeply detrimental to well-being of women in our society, and disregard all respect for female bodily autonomy. We believe that not only do these recommendations go against the very core of gender equality, by removing a woman’s right to take the best decision for her wellbeing, but that this decision is also rooted not in a general regard for a woman’s health but a need to control the bodies and lives of women.
The reasons one resorts to Emergency Contraception, a contraceptive method which must be advocated as a last resort, are varied and the medication is used by women of all ages, backgrounds and marital status. However regardless of the differences between the women who use such medication, one common denominator remains: they must all make use of the medication shortly after intercourse has taken place, hence the use of the term ‘emergency'. The quicker a woman is able to take the medication, the less the risk for complications. Thus, adding the extra, and unnecessary hurdle of obtaining a prescription lengthens the process and limits access to the medication. Furthermore, we believe that adding this extra hurdle is also detrimental to the empowerment of Maltese women- who will not be trusted to take the decision themselves, like their European and international counterparts. We urge you to trust us with our own wellbeing and recognise that women are aware of the negative consequences of frequent use of all medication, not only the emergency contraceptive pill.
We also believe that since our educational systems are considered to be on par with those of our European and international counterparts, it is unnecessary not to trust Pharmacists with the task of properly informing those who seek to use the medication about its use and side effects.
We fear that this decision gives certain doctors who may feel that they have a right to judge the sexual lives of women, based on their own moral convictions, the chance to abuse of their power. It is not up to you as Parliamentarians, or doctors, or neighbours to judge upon the decisions of others when it comes to these affairs. This was the premise of the debate on LGBT rights, so we demand that it is also so during this debate on women’s rights.
This decision also does not take into consideration the needs of victims of sexual assault, who very often do not approach authorities about the assault until they are ready. Without immediate access to Emergency Contraceptives, women who are still under the shock of sexual assault, especially in cases where the abuser is known to the victim, may end up losing the time-window in which the medication can be utilised. We urge you to be on these women’s side.
But this is not just us declaring our opinions, it is the facts and the figures which back our arguments. Studies (listed at the end of to this letter) have clearly indicated that improving access to Emergency Contraception by providing them over the counter or through advance provision would not promote its abuse nor encourage risky sexual behaviour, but may actually further facilitate its timely use so as to achieve the best efficacy. This is further backed up by recommendations by the following prominent institutions among others: American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Society for Adolescent Medicine, American Academy of Paediatrics, American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, European Medical Authority, World Health Organisation, European Commission, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (UK), United Nations and International Federation of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians.
We urge you to rethink and see reason. We urge you to take a decision that is based on the best interest of this great country and its citizens. We urge you to take a strong stand in favour of human rights, of bodily autonomy, of empowerment and of respect for the strong, independent women in our societies wanting to take control of their lives, ready to contribute to our economies, democracies, civil societies and our schools. A vote in favour of these recommendations, means a vote against women and we urge you not to allow this debate to be hijacked by the irrationality of lobby groups who would prefer to have women burdened with an unwanted pregnancy with all the repercussions that go with it.
Marston C, Meltzer H, Majeed A. Impact on contraceptive practice of making emergency hormonal contraception available over the counter in Great Britain: repeated cross sectional surveys. BMJ 2005;331(7511):271.
Harper CC, Cheong M, Rocca CH, et al. The effect of increased access to emergency contraception among young ado- lescents. Obstet Gynecol 2005;106(3):483e91.
Moreau C, Bajos N, Trussell J. The impact of pharmacy access to emergency contraceptive pills in France. Contraception 2006;73(6):602e8.
Ranney ML, Gee EM, Merchant RC. Nonprescription availability of emergency contraception in the United States. Ann Emerg Med 2006;47(5):461e71.
Lo SST, Fan SYS, Ho PC, et al. Effect of advanced provision of emergency contraception on women's contraceptive behaviour: a randomized controlled trial. Hum Reprod 2004;19(10):2404e10.
Raymond EG, Stewart F, Weaver M, et al. Impact of increased access to emergency contraceptive pills: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol 2006;108:1098e106.
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Rodriguez MI, Curtis KM, Gaffield ML, et al. Advance supply of emergency contraception: a systematic review. Contra- ception 2013;87(5):590e601.
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